Ask An Expert: Energy
The MSE Forum hosted a special three-day 'Ask An Expert' event focussed on all things energy. Here's what went down.
Something new occurred in the MSE Forum just the other week. We staged our first Ask An Expert event, themed around energy. Amid the rising costs of gas and electricity, this was a chance for the community to put their questions to MSE Gary and MSE Andrew from the Utilities team.
Remember: at any time you can post questions on the MSE Forum's Energy board, where a host of helpful users are on hand to lend support and share their experiences. We've also a catalogue of regularly updated energy guides, tools and blogs on MoneySavingExpert.com.
Gary, our Money & Utilities Editor (left) and Andrew, our Senior Analyst (below right), have racked up a combined total of 16 years at MoneySavingExpert.com.
The Ask An Expert took place on the dedicated board between 9-11 August. You can take a gander and join in the conversations (but sorry folks – it's not possible to post a new question now the event's over).
A big thank you to everyone who posted.
We collected around 70 questions, but the limited time window meant our experts couldn't answer them all. You can see at a glance which ones our experts answered thanks to the teal 'Ask An Expert: Answered' tags.
Queries spanned a vast range, including tariff cooling-off periods, standing charges, what to do when moving into a new property and what discussions are happening around resolving the energy crisis. The most popular of all was whether or not to choose a fixed tariff.
Below are some of the questions and their answers. Keep in mind these were posted in the MSE Forum on 11 August 2022 and won't be updated.
IMPORTANT: MoneySavingExpert.com doesn't give personal financial advice. This applies to the Ask An Expert event too. While the experts are able to explain things in general terms and point to extra help, you should always do your own research when applying their knowledge to your specific circumstances.
"Should I fix?"
Variations of should I go for a fixed rate? were the most frequent type of question. Here's what MSE Andrew had to say:
Right now, there are no tariffs meaningfully cheaper than the current price cap, so it’s not about switching your deal to something cheaper. It’s all about whether you’ve been offered a deal that’s likely to be cheaper than the price cap rates over the next year.
If we factor in around two months on the current rate, three at October’s, three at January, three at April’s and one at July’s, using industry analysis firm Cornwall Insight’s latest predictions and adjusting for higher use in winter, on average a typical price-capped bill would be 96% higher over the next year than it is now.
So our rule of thumb is:
If you're offered a year's fix at no more than 95% above your current price-capped tariff, or 100% more if you very strongly value budgeting certainty, it's worth considering.
This isn’t an exact science – fixing below this point isn’t a slam dunk, this is our best-guess with the information we have.
We’ve full info in Martin’s Should you fix guide, including a table of the latest existing customers deals we know about. Be aware though, that we use typical, average use to compare, so the price you’ll be offered will be different, based on your region and usage.
It’s also worth noting that some firms, such as Bulb, don’t offer fixed deals to its customers. We’ve full info on that in the guide above – but in a nutshell it means you’ll need to move to the cheapest open-market fix, which are much more expensive right now, and likely won’t fall within our switching percentage.
Hope that helps!
~ MSE Andrew, Senior Analyst
What action's being taken to improve the energy market?
A couple of MSE Forumites wanted to know what's being done about the energy crisis and when we might start to see a change. MSE Gary replied with some information.
Yes, MSE, Martin and representatives from charities Citizens Advice, National Energy Action and StepChange met with CEOs of Ovo, British Gas, Octopus, E.on, EDF and Shell Energy in July to discuss the energy crisis.
The aim was to work together on the low-hanging fruit, without government or regulators. You can see the agreed actions from that meeting in this MSE news story.
A senior level working group is meeting regularly and making good progress on the agreed actions, and we hope to be able to share outcomes more widely after the next meeting of CEOs in September.
Separately, Ofgem is looking into the energy market more widely and MSE regularly responds to its consultations.
~ MSE Gary, Money & Utilities Editor
Does pre-paid electricity protect you against price rises??
This user was considering topping up their meter with six months' worth of electricity. MSE Gary gave a steer on whether or not it would be worth it. More information can be found in this MSE news story from March: Martin Lewis WARNING: The 'top up prepay meters before April' trick may NOT now work for all.
There was a lot of uncertainty around this before the last price cap change as unfortunately, information we were given by energy firms and the regulator proved not to be watertight. We’re currently working with providers to get clarity on this ahead of October’s price cap change, but here’s what we do know:
- It is unlikely to work for gas with any supplier. In March Ofgem told us gas meters are made by Siemens, and while they don't record what the date of usage is, the key or card that people use to top them up can be preloaded with both current and new prices in advance of a cap change. This means the rate the meter charges for gas can change even without them being topped up.
- With electricity, it MAY work depending on your firm. Back in March, Scottish Power told us it would not work for its customers, but other suppliers told us it would. Ofgem then told us a common position is "it will work, but if it costs them too much money, they reserve the right to back charge on this". We’re working to get all suppliers to 100% confirm their position on this ahead of the October change.
Hope that helps.
~ MSE Gary, Money & Utilities Editor
What do you think about the Ask An Expert event?
Would you like to see more Ask An Expert events? If so, what topics would be most useful to you? Let us know in the comments below, or by emailing email@example.com.